Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Today we looked at the long-range forecast for Michigan as a whole and what it will take in terms of policy decisions and education to keep Michigan from having a future as dark and dismal as a Dickens novel.

Two writers who've explored these questions for Bridge Magazine joined us today: Ron French and Nancy Derringer.

*Listen to the full interview above.

There’s a new group called the Economic Justice Coalition which is seriously considering trying to get a proposal on the ballot to raise the minimum wage in Michigan.

You might think that would make Democrats happy. Their gubernatorial candidate, Mark Schauer, came out in favor of a minimum wage hike two months ago.

But Democratic leaders aren’t thrilled with a ballot campaign, for reasons I’ll explain in a minute. Now, it’s not that they don’t want a higher minimum wage.Virtually all of them do. Schauer said if elected, he would try to raise Michigan’s from the present $7.40 an hour to $9.25 an hour over three years.

Bytemarks / flickr

More than 1.6 million Americans have lost their unemployment insurance since the end of 2013.

Congress allowed federal legislation designed to give job seekers unemployment benefits to expire on Dec. 28.

Congressional Democrats have called on Republicans to support legislation that would revive unemployment benefits.

Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, who authored legislation to extend unemployment benefits, said partisan gridlock could cause the number of people without unemployment benefits to double by the end of the year.

Esther Gordy Edwards started the Motown Museum in 1985. After a recent visit, Sir Paul McCartney "adopted" one of Hitsville's historic pianos and had it restored by Steinway.
user dig downtown detroit / Flickr

From Motown to Madonna, techno to gospel, jazz and blues, from Eminem to Kid Rock to Aretha, and much more, the Detroit area has been, and continues to be, a music powerhouse.

In fact, at least 38 Grammy Award winners and nominees from the past five years have a Detroit connection.

A recent study from the Anderson Economic Group takes a deep dive into the business of the Detroit-area music scene.

Alex Rosaen, the principal author of the study for the Anderson Economic Group, joined us today.

Dan Bobkoff / Changing Gears

Michigan's primary industry, the auto industry, had a boom year in 2013.  That rapid growth is expected to slow in 2014, according to Robert Dye, an economist with Comerica Bank.

So, there may not be as many auto jobs created.

But, Dye notes that West Michigan's furniture industry could experience a boom.

"As we generate more jobs nationwide, companies will start reinvesting back into their office space," says Dye.  "And so I do expect improving conditions for furniture manufacturers in Michigan."

Katy Batdorff

One of the common traditions as we end one year and begin another is taking stock — reviewing where we've been and figuring out where we want to go in the New Year.

A good place to focus that review would be finances, and the prospects for the housing market.

A consumer credit forecast was released today that can give us a look into where Michigan’s market may be headed in 2014.

Listen to the full interview above.

Planet Money published a story about used clothing trends. One T-shirt found in Kenya was originally made for a Michigan bat mitzvah in 1993.

Andy / Flickr

We turn now to what’s known as the “underground economy.”

When jobs are scarce, people will do whatever they can to put a meal on the table, pay the mortgage or the rent. Whether it's odd jobs, selling plasma, doing home repairs and getting paid under the table, people are doing it.

One economist gave a best-guess estimate of two trillion dollars worth of this underground activity in the nation last year -- that’s nearly eight percent of the Gross Domestic Product.

Reporter Lynn Moore wrote a piece about the shadow economy in Michigan and she joined us today.

*Listen to the audio above.

Half a century ago, America suffered one of the most traumatic events in our history: The assassination of President Kennedy. But while it is important to remember that, it might also be good to consider that there is a bunch of good economic news today. Good news, especially for Michigan.

Yesterday, University of Michigan economists presented their annual November forecast. They saw good things ahead, with the national economy growing almost twice as fast over the next two years as now.

Two experts from the Research Seminar in Quantitative Economics predicted five million new jobs over the next two years. Unemployment, they predict, will fall from just over seven to about six percent.

Meanwhile, they predict the automakers will sell half a million more units next year than this, more still in 2015, and the housing market will also grow.  Inflation will stay low and oil prices will remain steady. This is all very good news, if true.

user: jodelli / Flickr

This week, the Business Leaders for Michigan, the state’s most prominent business roundtable, met in Detroit.

The group offered an in-depth “report card” of how Michigan is recovering from the implosion suffered during the recession. They also outline what it’ll take to boost Michigan’s presence as a money-generating state.

We talked with Daniel Howes, a business columnist with the Detroit News, about Michigan's current business climate — and where things go from here.

Lizzie Williams / Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce

Americans are less optimistic about the economy in the wake of the partial government shutdown earlier this month.

That information is coming from the University of Michigan’s "Index of Consumer Sentiment", which measures how confident consumers are in their economy.

Experts say the latest drop in consumer sentiment may impact the holiday shopping season.

From the Associated Press:

Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy / UM's Ford School of Public Policy

Michigan's cities, towns, and villages are seeing an overall improvement in their ability to meet their financial needs, but hundreds continue to struggle. That's according to an annual report by the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy at the University of Michigan's Ford School of Public Policy.

The report finds that smaller municipalities are having a tougher time than those with populations of more than 30,000. And municipalities in central Michigan and the southern lower Peninsula have been particularly hard hit. / Wayne State University

Twenty eight of Michigan's top 100 public companies have no women as directors, executive officers, or in the ranks of the five highest-paid employees. Even among companies with women in top positions, the numbers are small, and the rate of change glacial.

That's according to a report recently released by the Inforum Center for Leadership in Michigan. The report was co-authored by two officers of Inforum and two faculty members at Wayne State University's School of Business Administration.


Meijer announced today that they're planning to hire 4,400 part-time workers in Michigan (more in other states). The Grand Rapids-based company says they're hiring in response to company growth and in "in preparation for the fall and holiday selling seasons."

More from their press release:

user: whitneyinchicago / Flickr

We know the question everyone has been asking about the impending arrival of a new member of the British royal family. 

No, of course it's not, will it be a girl or a boy. We are, after all, public radio consumers. What we really want to know is: What will the economic impact of the royal birth be on the U.K. economy?


That's the estimate for a family made up of two parents and two kids.

The numbers are calculated by the Economic Policy Institute, a progressive think tank based in Washington D.C.

You can look up your specific living situation with their updated "Family Budget Calculator."

EPI says the calculator estimates the annual income a family needs for a "secure yet modest living standard."

It estimates expenses related to housing, food, child care, transportation, health care, other necessities, and taxes. And by their calculations, families at the poverty level set by the federal government are nowhere near the EPI's "getting by" threshold.

The budgets, updated for 2013, are calculated for 615 U.S. communities and six family types (either one or two parents with one, two, or three children)...EPI’s family budgets offer a higher degree of geographic customization and provide a more accurate measure of economic security. In all cases, they show families need more than twice the amount of the federal poverty line to get by.

Of the 20 areas the EPI examined in Michigan, the Ann Arbor area came out on top as the most expensive place to live.  Rural Michigan was the least expensive.

Here's a look at the Michigan areas EPI put into their calculator, from most expensive to least expensive (for two-parent, two-child families):

Unemployment line in California
Michael Raphael / Flickr

Economic development leaders in Michigan like to talk about the number of manufacturing jobs created in the state in the last couple of years. But Michigan is not keeping up with the job growth of some other states as the nation recovers from the Great Recession.

It's Thursday, which means we talk to Daniel Howes, business columnist with the Detroit News.

Howes joined us today to discuss Michigan’s anemic job growth.

Listen to the full interview above.

Job search seminar in Ohio
flickr user Daniel Johnson / Flickr

The Snyder administration has maintained its "relentless positive action" to reinvent Michigan. Lansing restructured taxes to give businesses better than a billion dollar tax break to encourage job growth in Michigan, and Gov. Snyder approved the right to work law which proponents insist will bring jobs to Michigan.

There has been some growth in jobs, but it’s been kind of anemic.

Charles Ballard, a professor of economics at Michigan State University, and Rick Haglund, a freelance writer for Bridge Magazine, MLive, and a blogger at, joined us today to discuss the issue. 

Listen to the full interview above.

The Great Lakes from space.

The term "economy" is used constantly in news stories or opinion pieces about Michigan, its trials and tribulations, its budding recovery.

But John Austin would like to get us all thinking about the "blue economy," the one that is based on the Great Lakes and water-related industry.

John is the director of the Michigan Economic Center, which is affiliated with the Prima Civitas Foundation, and he joined us in the studio today.

Listen to the full interview above.

It wouldn't be summer without a search for Jimmy Hoffa. We spoke with Michigan Radio's Jack Lessenberry about why we're still fascinated by the Hoffa disappearance all these years later.

And, we talked about the huge economic changes to mid-America with the author of the new book, "Nothin' But Blue Skies: the Heyday, Hard Times, and Hopes of America's Industrial Heartland."

And, Donna Posont, the director of Opportunities Unlimited for the Blind, joined us to discuss her group’s new project, Michigan Birdbrains.

Also, a diver found a bottle containing a message from nearly 100 years ago at the bottom of the St. Clair River. He joined us to talk about his discovery.

First on the show, the term “economy” is used constantly in news stories or opinion pieces about Michigan, its trials and tribulations, its budding recovery.

But John Austin would like to get us all thinking about the "blue economy," the one that is based on the Great Lakes and water-related industry.

John is the director of the Michigan Economic Center, which is affiliated with the Prima Civitas Foundation, and he joined us in the studio today.

Photo courtesy of the University of Michigan

Michigan’s three biggest universities are producing young entrepreneurs twice as fast as the national average.

That’s according to a report by East Lansing-based Anderson Economic Group released today at a conference of business leaders and politicians on Mackinac Island.

Debbie Dingell is chair of the Wayne State University Board of Governors.

“What’s clear is that we in Michigan have young people with ideas, and we’re giving them a university system that’s giving them the tools that they need to actually go out and start that business,” said Debbie Dingell, chair of the Wayne State University Board of Governors.

The report says almost half of the new businesses started by college grads have been started or acquired in Michigan.

University officials say they’ve revamped their curriculum in recent years to encourage entrepreneurship among students.

Foreclosed house in Ypsilanti Township
Rebecca Williams / The Environment Report

Opponents of a plan to change the foreclosure process in Michigan say it would put more people out of their homes and hurt property values.

They were in Lansing today to protest a package of bills in the state Legislature.

The legislation would shorten the amount of time homeowners have to stop a bank foreclosure from six months to two months.

Ingham County Register of Deeds Curtis Hertel Jr. says banks have wrongly foreclosed on thousands of properties across the state.

He says it often takes months for people to prove they don’t deserve to lose their home.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Chris Gautz, the Capitol Correspondent for Crains Detroit Business, spent hours this morning at the Capitol where the state’s Revenue Estimating Conference took place.

That's where lawmakers, budget officials, and economists come together to make their best educated guess about the future of the state’s economy, and check-in, basically, on the state’s finances.

Political observers, and "political nerds" (like our Executive Producer Zoe Clark), love these meetings.

For others, however, it’s hard to get super excited about hours of numbers, finances, and "economist-speak."

Chris Gautz joined us today in the studio.

Listen to the full interview above.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Economists say Michigan's economy is turning around for the fourth straight year in part because the housing sector is on the mend.

University of Michigan experts told state lawmakers Wednesday that employment grew significantly faster in the past two years than previously estimated.

Michigan's unemployment rate dropped 1.3 percentage points in 2012 and is expected to continue gradually declining.

The downside is the state's jobless rate is high, above where it was before the national downturn in the economy in 2008.

Alan Cleaver / Flickr

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder and lawmakers don't agree on how much money to set aside in Michigan's savings account.

The rainy day fund was nearly empty when the Republican governor took office after a decade of job losses and budget crises. He successfully built it back up to more than $500 million and is hoping to add another $75 million.

Snyder says a healthy cash reserve is good for the state's credit rating and prudent in case there are future economic downturns.

But the GOP-led Senate next week is expected to approve a budget without extra money in the account. Some legislators say savings are robust and the $75 million should go to other priorities instead.

The House is more in line with Snyder. Lawmakers will negotiate their differences next month.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Michigan was recently ranked fifth on USA Today's list of craft brew states in the country.

Over the past three to four years Michigan has seen a large growth in microbrewies.

There has been recent  buzz within the microbrewery scene in Michigan with news that the state's first 'Mobile Canning' line is being launched.

Microbreweries around the state will be able to get cans of their brew onto store shelves without having to invest in costly canning equipment.

It has been a challenging few years for nonprofit groups in Michigan. Whether they depended on private donations or corporate donations or both, the Great Recession hurt organizations all over the state.

But as our state gradually recovers, so are the nonprofits, especially in certain areas of Michigan.

Montgomery Consulting of Huntington Woods is out with a new survey of fundraising conditions in Michigan.

It gives us a quick look at who's on the rebound and who is still struggling.

Today Michael Montgomery joins us from Huntington Woods. He gives us a look at Michigan's regions and where nonprofits are doing the best in terms of meeting their fundraising goals.

He also gives us some tips for those who run nonprofits in Michigan and people who are prospective donors.

Today, the annual Washtenaw County Outlook event will bring  economists, businesses, and government officials together to address the current and future economic prospects for the county.

Lizzy Alfs of reports many were surprised to hear an economic forecast that Washtenaw County is expected to increase its job growth.

Carlos Lowry / Flickr

The clouds have been lifting for  U.S. car makers.

With car sales and America's economy picking up, there are some who are looking further down the road.

They have been wondering  if deeper, bigger challenges lie ahead for the companies who put the world on wheels.

One of those wondering is automotive writer Micki Maynard. She recently published a couple of pieces in Forbes Magazine exploring what she calls "The Secret Fear of the World's Biggest Auto Companies".

Micki Maynard spoke with us to explain exactly what is the "Secret Fear" of the World's Biggest Auto Companies.

To hear the full story click the audio link above.

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - University of Michigan economists are predicting job growth for the region including Genesee, Lapeer, Livingston, Macomb, Oakland, St. Clair and Shiawassee counties.

George Fulton and Don Grimes of the Ann Arbor school's Institute for Research on Labor, Employment, and the Economy said the areas will gain more than 76,000 jobs this year through 2015. They issued the annual forecast Thursday for the Economic Growth Alliance, a partnership that includes the counties.

They say the region will add 17,600 jobs this year, 27,200 jobs in 2014 and 31,600 jobs in 2015. That comes after a gain of nearly 75,000 jobs over the past three years.

Fulton and Grimes say that the job growth will be accompanied by slowly declining unemployment and relatively tame inflation.